Show Up or Shut Down?

I’m a goal-setter.  I like setting goals.  Part of my identity is about setting and achieving goals.  I like structure.  A framework is a good thing.  Plan the work.  Work the plan.

I’ve also come to appreciate the reality of the saying:  “We plan.  God laughs.”

This week we are looking at some of the lessons from Dr. Daniel Friedland, author of Leading Well from Within.  Yesterday, we discussed the idea that times of crisis and uncertainty are also times of learning, growth and transformation.  According to Danny, this idea is part of a larger understanding. “Everything is curriculum,” he says.  The “goal” here is simply to remain open to what comes up next.

Remaining open to the raw current of life runs counter to our desire to retreat when life gets stressful.  The Oxford dictionary defines anesthetize as to “deprive of feeling or awareness.”  I tend to switch off my mind with excessive television or movies.  For you, perhaps it’s gaming or music.  Substance abuse is also rampant.  Whatever the poison, the result is to shut down rather than show up.

By contrast, Robert Greenleaf explains in his seminal essay, The Servant as Leader, servant leaders are “sharply awake and reasonably disturbed.  They are not seekers after solace.  They have their own inner serenity.”

It will be two years ago this August that my wife Julie passed away from neuroendocrine cancer.  She was diagnosed in September 2017 and died eleven months later.  This was a terrible, turbulent, and sorrowful experience on many levels.  Losing my beloved wife and mom to our then 9- and 11-year old daughters was difficult beyond measure. 

There were, however, moments of connection and meaning during this experience which I will never forget.  Julie’s cancer was a particularly aggressive one.  Not only did she never complain (truly), she was a fighter.  And, fight she did.  Late in this journey when her doctor told us we should consider hospice, Julie turned to me and said, “My word is hope.  I want to be a miracle.”  While she did not ultimately win that fight, she never, ever gave up.  It was one of the great privileges of my life to love and support her on that journey and to witness the power of her human spirit in action.  

In circumstances like these, many believers question their faith.  This was not my experience.  For me, this tragedy was an exercise in letting go.  In giving over.  In trusting.  Each morning I would pray with all I had for Julie to be healed.  And, then, I would turn it over to God.  “Thy will be done.”  

I still like to make plans and set goals.  But, I’ve also become more open, kind, and curious as to what comes next.  Like many things in life, we can choose “both/and” (rather than “either/or”).  It is good to be intentional and create a vision for our lives.  And, it’s also wise to listen.  To make space for what shows up.  

We create our legacy both by design and by seeing what emerges through us.

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Reflection:  When in the past have I shut down rather than engage life fully?  What behaviors do I demonstrate at times like these?  Are these behaviors present currently in my life?

Action: Make time today to reflect and be open

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  1. Very inspiring, Drew. This is a great message, and very timely for me. Thank you for this.

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